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By Cecelia Tan

June 25, 2004

Where is Phil Linz now? New York City, where he made his name as a Yankee. What does he do in the city that never sleeps? As Phil puts it, he's "a title insurance rep." A what? "When people do commercial buildings, they have to get title clearance, and then they need to buy title insurance. I'm the vice president of sales of a company. It's very lucrative."

Linz was a happy-go-lucky ballplayer, and he hasn’t changed. Since leaving baseball, he’s owned a restaurant nightclub and worked a variety of jobs, but by his own admission, "the real reason my life has been so good is because of the harmonica thing."

Ah, "the harmonica thing."

Linz had been working his way up the New York farm system behind another talented shortstop, Tom Tresh. In 1962, Tresh and Linz got their shots when the Yanks' regular shortstop, Tony Kubek, left the club for military service.

"We met with [Ralph] Houk before the [exhibition] games started, and he said 'I'm going to play one of you today and one of you the next day, and whoever has the best spring wins the job.'" Both players excelled and made the team; Tresh at short, Linz as the backup infielder.

In 1964, the harmonica thing. Yogi Berra took the helm when Houk moved upstairs as general manager. There was much speculation that Yogi, in his first managerial job, wouldn't assert the necessary authority over players who’d been his teammates. One afternoon on the team bus in Chicago, Linz began teaching himself to play the harmonica.

Yogi, an old-school Yankee, didn't think harmonica playing was appropriate following a loss, especially with the team in a slump. He yelled to knock it off. When Linz asked Mickey Mantle, sitting nearby, what Yogi had said, Mantle replied "play it louder."

"Mantle really did say 'play it louder,'" Linz told me. "So I played it louder, and the rest is history." Yogi, incensed, charged back and slapped the harmonica out of Linz' hands. The New York press didn’t miss an opportunity, and blew the event up into a full blown “incident."

Who knows, perhaps the team was spurred by Yogi's unexpected fire. They started winning, went on to win the American League pennant, and faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1964 World Series.

In the Series, Linz got his chance at personal October glory, hitting two home runs, including one in the Yankees Game Seven loss. When Berra was fired after the Series; some said his days had been numbered ever since “The Harmonica Incident.”

"Yogi never held it against me," Linz explained. But Yogi's bane was Linz' boon. "All my jobs have been because of that; people remember me because of that one incident. I only hit eleven home runs my whole career, you know, but I'm in all the books and all that."

Linz hit the banquet circuit the winter of ‘64 and made so much extra money, he was able to open a nightclub on First Avenue. "I had that restaurant for 23 years, plus three other restaurants."

And now, title insurance. C'mon, Phil, isn't it time to relax and slow down? "No, no. I'm too immature to slow down."

About the author: Cecilia Tan is the author of the forthcoming book "Fifty Greatest Yankee Games" (Wiley, March 2005). Please visit her on the web, "Why I Like Baseball.”


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